Tom Savage

Extra Points: Pack, Ravens, Saints, Conley

Brian Gutekunst remains confident the Packers will sign Aaron Rodgers to an extension this offseason, telling Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk he expects an agreement “soon.” The first-year GM said both sides continue to work on a pact. Although, the negotiations likely just saw the price rise since Matt Ryan‘s five-year, $150MM extension raised the ceiling for quarterback contracts. However, Gutekunst told Florio before Ryan’s Falcons agreement was finalized that both the Packers and Rodgers may be waiting to see if any other quarterback deals are completed this offseason. With Kirk Cousins signed and Ryan now locked up through 2023, Rodgers’ deal is likely next on the QB docket. Although, it’s still possible the Patriots and Tom Brady revise the reigning MVP’s contract. With two years remaining on Rodgers’ deal, Florio estimates the final result will be a contract closer to Ryan’s through-2023 deal than Cousins’ three-year accord. He also expects Rodgers’ new deal to further raise the quarterback ceiling, one that’s climbed considerably since Derek Carr became the league’s first $25MM-AAV player less than a year ago.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Two rookies the Ravens may well have hoped to land went to AFC North rivals. Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun notes the Ravens were eyeing Miami running back Mark Walton with their fourth-round pick, but the Bengals ended up selecting him six spots before Baltimore’s next pick — one that went to Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett. The other player they may well have wanted ended up in Pittsburgh. Zreibec adds the Ravens most likely sought James Washington, who went to the Steelers late in the second round. Eric DeCosta said a few times during this draft he became “angrier than usual” because of a player going off the board just prior to a Ravens selection window, and Zreibec assumes the Oklahoma State wide receiver was the source of one of these agitation bouts.
  • Brandon Coleman‘s Saints contract is worth a maximum of $1MM, Larry Holder of NOLA.com reports. Coleman re-signed with New Orleans after not being tendered as a restricted free agent. Had the Saints applied the low-end tender to Coleman, he would have made $1.9MM this season. After the Saints selected Tre’Quan Smith in the third round, Coleman and return specialist Tommylee Lewis could be battling for a roster spot, Nick Underhill of The Advocate writes.
  • On the subject of Saints position battles, Underhill notes the Saints are high enough on Taysom Hill that they might be ready to cut Tom Savage and carry just two quarterbacks if Hill beats him out for the backup job. They also brought in J.T. Barrett this month. Hill served as the Saints’ third-string quarterback last season behind Drew Brees and Chase Daniel. It would cost the Saints just $100K if they released Savage.
  • Gareon Conley has yet to receive full clearance to return to Raiders workouts, but Jon Gruden said that appears imminent, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Conley underwent shin surgery last year after missing almost his entire rookie season. Gruden indicated the 2017 first-round pick is running with teammates and participating in walkthroughs but hasn’t been given a full green light yet.
  • Both of Eric Berry‘s twin younger brothers are with teams this weekend. One will have a chance to join the All-Pro safety with the Chiefs. Elliott Berry is in Kansas City working as a tryout player, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Meanwhile, Evan Berry signed with the Browns as a UDFA on Friday. Both of twins played at Tennessee, as Eric did.

NFC Notes: Bulaga, Foles, Cowboys

Given that the Packers could save nearly $5MM by releasing RT Bryan Bulaga, and given Bulaga’s recent injury history, there was some chatter that Green Bay could part ways with the ninth-year pro (especially since Bulaga is not even guaranteed to be ready for the start of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL on November 6). But we recently heard that Bulaga remains in the team’s 2018 plans, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga’s rehab is ahead of schedule (per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Therefore, it certainly sounds as if Bulaga will be back for the fourth year of the five-year pact he signed prior to the 2015 season.

  • In a series of tweets, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com passes along more details on Nick Foles‘ reworked deal. Foles’ cap number is now $9.6MM, fourth-highest on the Eagles, but if the team were to trade him after June 1, it would save $7MM in cap space, more than it would have saved prior to the restructure. As such, the restructure looks like a win-win in that Foles gets more money and incentives and it’s easier for the Eagles to deal him if someone comes along with a great offer. Shorr-Parks, though, still does not expect Foles to be traded.
  • The Cowboys selected Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White in the fifth round of this year’s draft, which marked just the sixth time Dallas has drafted a QB since Jerry Jones purchased the franchise in 1989. White is expected to compete with Cooper Rush for the backup job, though Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that executive vice president Stephen Jones is open to carrying three signal-callers in 2018.
  • Per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Saints head coach Sean Payton does not know if the team will bring in a fourth QB to compete with Tom Savage and Taysom Hill. Payton said the Saints considered drafting a signal-caller this weekend, but they are anxious to see what Savage and Hill can do.
  • Brady Henderson of ESPN.com says the Seahawks see Shaquem Griffin, whom they selected in the fifth round of this weekend’s draft, as a weak-side LB at the next level, and he also reports that Seattle viewed fourth-round pick Will Dissly as the best blocking tight end in the class (Twitter links).
  • The Lions apparently disappointed at least a couple of teams in this weekend’s draft. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Detroit selected Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson one pick before the Redskins were prepared to take him, and the Panthers were going to take UL-Lafayette CB Tracy Walker with the No. 85 overall pick, but the Lions nabbed him with their No. 82 pick.

Saints Sign QB Tom Savage

The Saints have a new backup quarterback. New Orleans has signed former Texans signal caller Tom Savage, according to his agents (on Twitter). Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that it’s a one-year deal worth $1.5MM.

The Saints re-signed their starter, Drew Brees, but they lost their No. 2 QB when Chase Daniel left in free agency to join up with the Bears. Savage provides starting experience – and far more on-field experience than Daniel.

Savage, a former fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh, entered the season as Houston’s starter. He wound up losing the job to rookie Deshaun Watson rather quickly.

Savage finished the year with 1,412 yards and five touchdowns against six interceptions. He also completed just 56% of his passes.

Saints Interested In QB Tom Savage

After losing Chase Daniel to the Bears, the Saints are in the market for a backup quarterback. That search could lead them to Tom Savage, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets

Savage, our 15th ranked QB in free agency, began the season as the Texans’ starting quarterback but got the hook in favor of Deshaun Watson in the early in the year. When Watson was lost to a torn ACL, Savage regained the starting job only to suffer a season-ending concussion in Week 14. All in all, Savage played in eight games and started seven, going 1-6 in those starts.

Savage, a former fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh, finished the year with 1,412 yards and five touchdowns against six interceptions. He also completed just 56% of his passes.

The Saints and other interested teams will want to take a close look at Savage’s medicals in the wake of his scary concussion last year which left him shaking on the field. Savage, somehow, was allowed to re-enter the game afterwards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Texans Notes: Lechler, Savage, Joseph

Shane Lechler will turn 42 before the 2018 NFL season begins, but the Texans punter wants to play a 19th season. He is not under contract beyond 2017 but wants said 19th campaign to come in Houston.

Is this my last year? No, it’s not,” Lechler said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I have too much, I think, to offer to the game, and I hit the ball good consistently this year. I went into the year with a good plan and, for the most part, it worked out. … I think the way this year we were hit so hard with injuries, there’s no way I would walk away with the talent in this room. I’m very excited about next year and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Texans and Lechler agreed on one-year deals in each of the past two Marches. He earned $2MM this season after signing for $1.8MM in 2016. Lechler’s final years with the Raiders during the early 2010s were for more money, but he seems to have settled on a consistent path with the Texans. Lechler’s currently averaging 48.9 yards per punt, which would be his best single-season figure since his most recent All-Pro slate of 2010.

Here’s the latest out of Houston.

  • The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement regarding the handling of Tom Savage‘s concussion, and the Texans will not be disciplined for how they dealt with the matter. However, the statement said the outcome was “unacceptable and therefore further improvements in the protocol are necessary.” As a result of the Savage incident, the NFL will make enhancements to its concussion protocol. Kevin Patra of NFL.com details the updated chain of events.
  • Johnathan Joseph‘s second Texans contract will expire after Sunday’s game against the Colts, but the 33-year-old cornerback wants to stay in Houston. This will wrap up Joseph’s 12th NFL season; he’s played seven of those with the Texans on two contracts. He will turn 34 in April. “This has been home for me; I’d like to continue it being my home,” Joseph said, via Wilson. “At the end of the day, that’s not my call to make. We’ll see what happens. I think I’ve had a great run here.” Joseph rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62 corner (out of 121 full-time players at the position), and the former Pro Bowler would figure to draw interest on a short-term deal come March. The Texans have Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson under contract for 2018 but have started Joseph the past seven seasons.
  • The Texans could be forced to make a difficult choice after Week 17, with the Bill O’BrienRick Smith relationship looking to have deteriorated to or near the point of no return.

Texans Place Tom Savage On IR

The concussion Tom Savage sustained in Week 14 will end his season. The Texans placed him on IR on Saturday, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.

This could end Savage’s time in Houston. He’s set to be a UFA in March and do so after a season that didn’t go as the team would have hoped. Savage ended up playing in eight games and starting seven, but he went 1-6 in those starts — six of which came after the franchise lost Deshaun Watson for the season.

Savage earned the Texans’ Week 1 starting job but was yanked halfway through it. Watson is now the future, and Savage will enter free agency in a year where there will be other higher-profile passers available via the UFA or trade markets.

The former fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh finished this season with 1,412 yards, five touchdown passes and six interceptions. He completed just 56 percent of his passes in what was by far his most substantial NFL audition. It ended with one of the uglier sequences the NFL saw this season, with the 27-year-old quarterback being allowed to re-enter a game after a scary hit left him shaking.

The Texans replaced Savage on the roster by promoting tight end Ryan Malleck from the practice squad, Berman reports (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Rumors: Rodgers, Stanton, Bengals

Mike McCarthy appeared to move closer to the prospect the Packers could shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season’s remainder on Monday. The Green Bay HC said Rodgers was sore and the staff is “working through that” after the all-world quarterback’s re-emergence game against the Panthers, and the coach said he would watch the Falcons-Buccaneers game closely Monday night, per Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen of PackersNews.com. The Falcons are currently leading, and that result holding would end the Packers’ eight-season playoff streak tonight. McCarthy being noncommittal about Rodgers’ status after the Week 15 Green Bay loss, coupled with his Monday-night plans, would indicate a possible consideration of giving Rodgers a longer offseason to fully recover and prepare for 2018.

Here’s the latest from the quarterback position as Week 15 winds down.

  • As for Rodgers’ offseason, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports suggests it would be a good time to lock down Rodgers to a “monster” extension. The quarterback has seen inferior passers usurp him on the salary list in the past few years and would be in position to command a deal close to $30MM annually if he so chose. The salary cap is expected to rise between $174MM and $179MM from this year’s $167MM ceiling. Rodgers’ five-year, $110MM extension came in a year (2013) when the cap rested at $123MM. There are two years remaining on Rodgers’ contract following this season. The 34-year-old passer has no guaranteed money left on his deal, which has cap numbers of just $20.9MM and $21.1MM lined up for 2018 and ’19, respectively.
  • La Canfora also writes the Bengals playing A.J. McCarron instead of Andy Dalton during the final two games would be prudent. McCarron could end up a UFA depending on the outcome of his grievance, which is set for February. As of now, the fourth-year passer is set to be a restricted free agent. However, Marvin Lewis said (via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer) he plans to keep Dalton in his starting role despite another sub-.500 season being guaranteed. La Canfora writes Dalton, who is attached to a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020 but contains little guaranteed money going forward, could “easily” be traded. McCarron, of course, was nearly traded to the Browns for a second- and third-round pick. The career backup’s attempted just 133 regular-season passes.
  • The Cardinals will be shaking up their quarterback status quo by turning back to Drew Stanton after going with Blaine Gabbert for five games. Bruce Arians (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter) confirmed his initial Carson Palmer contingency plan will take back the reins. This comes after Arians raved about Gabbert’s abilities and with the Cardinals reportedly discussing an extension with the former first-round pick. Stanton started two games for the Cards earlier this season before going down with an injury. Stanton is signed through 2018.
  • Tom Savage‘s scary injury in Week 14 did not immediately result in his removal from that Texans-49ers game, making it a seminal sequence in the NFL’s ongoing concussion crisis. And Bill O’Brien said Monday (per Mark Berman of Fox 26, on Twitter) the fourth-year quarterback may not play again this season. T.J. Yates started in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jaguars. Savage stands to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

Hue Jackson “Pushed Hard” For QB Trade This Offseason?

Prior to the 49ers snagging Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick that’s likely to fall at the top of Day 2, the Browns were the team most connected with the former Patriots backup this offseason. And Hue Jackson may have been a key driver behind that Garoppolo-to-Cleveland buzz.

The second-year Browns coach “pushed hard” this offseason for the team to trade for Garoppolo or former Bengals charge A.J. McCarron, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Jackson felt Garoppolo could be a big part of a turnaround from Cleveland’s 1-15 season, Cabot reports, and made Tom Brady‘s then-backup his primary offseason target.

Cabot adds the Patriots would have traded Garoppolo to the Browns for “the right offer,” which the longtime Browns reporter notes would have had to include at least one first-round pick. The Browns had two of those going into the draft and ended up with three first-round selections while also carrying multiple second-round picks in April after making the Brock Osweiler trade.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported the Browns offered a second-round pick for Garoppolo, with Cabot adding the team did not go further on Day 2 of this draft to make the necessary offer to the Pats. Browns executive VP Sashi Brown said going into the draft the team was not interested in trading for a veteran quarterback.

Kyle Shanahan and Garoppolo spent time together when the current 49ers coach worked as the Browns’ OC in 2014, and Shanahan told cleveland.com at this year’s Super Bowl he had Garoppolo ranked high among the draftable 2014 passers during his one-year stay in northeast Ohio. Shanahan did not want Johnny Manziel, whom the Browns drafted, nor did he prefer Teddy Bridgewater. However, the short-term Browns play-caller did like Derek Carr and Tom Savage, per Cabot.

When the Patriots and Browns could not agree on terms for Garoppolo, Jackson pivoted to McCarron, Cabot reports. But Jackson viewed the current Bengals backup, whom he coached for two seasons in Cincinnati, as a stopgap until the Browns could land their long-term solution.

Cabot wonders if McCarron would be in play by today’s 3pm CT deadline but reports it would have likely taken at least two second-round picks to pry him from the Bengals this offseason. McCarron is under contract through the 2018 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.